Online Student Behaviour Concerns
Concerns of online student behaviour are assessed on a case-by-case basis to determine whether or not the behaviour falls under university policies, each of which are handled by different offices within the university. Relevant policies include the Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy (Human Rights Services), Sexual Violence Policy (Human Rights Services) and/or (PDF file) Student Code of Non-Academic Conduct (Student Care).
This resource provides information about three main university policies as they relate to online student behavior. However, the university also has other policies, guidelines, and standards relevant to this context that may have implications for online student behavior on their own or in conjunction with the main policies discussed here. These additional policies, procedures, guidelines, and standards include, but are not limited to, Policy 157: Student Use of Email Accounts, Acceptable Use of Information Technology, Workplace Civility and Respect Policy, the Student Computing Guidelines, and Residence Contract and Community Standards.
When do university policies apply?
University policies may apply to online student behaviour if it is connected to the university. For example, this can include:
- online activity as part of a university event, course, co-op, experiential learning or organized class activity
- communications on university platforms such as Zoom, D2L Learning Brightspace and TMU email
- online interactions between faculty and students, including during video lectures, tutorials and meetings, as well as course-related chats and discussion forums
- social media use in ways that are connected to university activities (e.g. Facebook groups or Instagram accounts created or used by faculty and/or students to share program or course-related information, etc.)
If you have a concern involving the online behaviour of a student, use this decision making tree to assess which office you should direct the inquiry to:
Does the online behaviour include a threat to the physical safety and security of TMU community members, university property or activities?
- If yes:
- Contact TMU Community Safety and Security immediately at 416-979-5040 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If this is an emergency, call 911.
- If no, continue to list item 2.
- If yes:
Does the online behaviour have a connection to the university and/or its activities? (e.g. Toronto Metropolitan University classes, events, platforms, email, etc.)
- If yes, continue to list item 3.
- If no:
- The complaint may not fall within the scope of TMU policies.
Is the online behaviour related to one or more of the protected grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code? (e.g. race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.) or concern sexual violence?
- If yes:
- Contact Human Rights Services for a review of the complaint under TMU’s Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy and/or Sexual Violence Policy.
- Contact Consent Comes First (CCF) if your complaint relates to sexual violence. CCF provides support to TMU community members affected by sexual violence.
- If no:
- Contact Student Care for a review of the complaint under TMU’s Student Code of Non-Academic Conduct (Policy 61).
- If yes:
Terms and definitions
- TMU community member refers to a TMU student, student group, employee, contractor, appointee, volunteer, alumni or invited guest.
- Protected grounds: Age, citizenship, creed, disability, marital status and family status, race, colour, ethnic origin, place of origin and ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, receipt of public assistance (housing only) and record of offences (employment only).
- Sexual violence: Any sexual act or act targeting a person’s sexuality, gender identity or gender expression, whether the act is physical or psychological in nature that is committed, threatened or attempted against a person without the person’s consent. This includes, but is not limited to sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, indecent exposure, voyeurism, sexual exploitation, degrading sexual imagery, distribution of sexual images or video of a community member without their consent, and cyber harassment or cyber stalking of a sexual nature.
University offices that handle concerns of online behaviour involving students
Community Safety and Security
Community Safety and Security assesses concerns that pose a risk to the physical safety and security of university community members, university property or normal activities of the university. In an emergency, please call 911.
Human Rights Services
Human Rights Services administers the complaint resolution process under (r TMU’s Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy and Sexual Violence Policy.
Frequently asked questions
Discrimination, harassment, sexual violence, and non-academic misconduct can and do take place online. These policies may apply to online student behaviour that is connected to the university.
The policies may not apply, however, if the online student behaviour is not connected to the university.
The policies may apply to online classes and communications, including for example on university platforms such as Zoom, D2L Learning Brightspace and TMU email.
The policies may apply to interactions between professors and students, including for example during video lectures, tutorials, and meetings, as well as course-related chats and discussion forums.
The DHPP applies to discrimination and harassment that occurs within the university community in relation to education, employment, or housing at the university. The discrimination and harassment must also be connected to one or more of the protected grounds listed in the Ontario Human Rights Code.
The protected grounds include:
- marital status and family status
- race, colour, ethnic origin, place of origin and ancestry
- sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression
- receipt of public assistance (housing only)
- record of offences (employment only)
The policy applies to direct discrimination if someone is treated differently and disadvantageously because of a personal characteristic(s) connected to one or more of the protected grounds.
It also applies to constructive discrimination if a policy or practice that may not appear to be discriminatory nonetheless affects someone differently and disadvantageously because of a personal characteristic(s) connected to one or more of the protected grounds.
The policy also applies to harassment, which is a course of unwanted comments or conduct based on one or more of the protected grounds that is known or ought to be known to be unwelcome.
Examples may include:
- Racist slurs
- Homophobic or transphobic jokes
- Inadvertently excluding members of particular religions from participating in core class activities due to scheduling conflicts with their religious holidays
The SVP applies to sexual acts against a person without the person’s consent, as well as unwelcome comments or conduct that target a person’s sexuality, gender identity, or gender expression.
Examples may include:
- Comments or jokes of a sexual nature
- Sexually explicit images
- Cyber-harassment and cyber-stalking
The university’s Student Code of Non-Academic Conduct (Policy 61) outlines actions that the university considers to be non-academic misconduct offences. The Code applies to all university students.
Examples may include:
- Behaviour that is violent, threatening, abusive, or demeaning
- Disruption of learning, teaching, and working
- Theft, damage, and destruction of property
- Misuse of facilities, equipment, materials, or services
According to Policy 61, “[n]othing in this Code shall be construed to prohibit peaceful assemblies and demonstrations, lawful picketing, or to inhibit freedom of expression.”
When determining if student online activity is contrary to Policy 61, the university’s other policies, procedures, guidelines, and standards may be considered. These additional policies, procedures, guidelines, and standards include, but are not limited to: Policy 157: Student Use of Email Accounts, Acceptable Use of Information Technology, Workplace Civility and Respect Policy, Student Computing Guidelines, and Residence Contract and Community Standards.
TMU is committed to freedom of expression. The TMU Senate has a (PDF file) Statement on Freedom of Speech, which outlines that “TMU embraces unequivocally the free exchange of ideas and the ideal of intellectual engagement within a culture of mutual respect.” It goes on to state that university community members must have freedom of thought and expression, including the “freedom to consider, inquire, and write or comment about any topic without concern for widely held or prescribed opinions.” When controversies or disagreements arise, it is the university’s primary responsibility to protect free speech within a culture of mutual respect.
The university also recognizes, however, that freedom of expression has limits and that the university “may act when speech on campus is used in a way that is itself unlawful or prevents the lawful exercise of free speech by others.” Whether on campus or online, TMU asks all community members to be mindful of the way in which they interact with others and respect the university’s values of equity, diversity and inclusion.
Policies such as the DHPP, SVP and Policy 61 support the university’s goal of maintaining an environment of free expression and mutual respect. The policies may place reasonable limits on freedom of expression to the extent that students’ online behaviours have a connection to the university and constitute discrimination, violence, threats, harassment, sexual violence, or non-academic misconduct as defined by the policies and/or the law or if the speech in question prevents the lawful exercise of free speech by others.
The policies typically do not apply to the following types of free expression online:
- Asking questions
- Engaging in discussions or debates about controversial topics
- Political statements or critiques
Students can contact Human Rights Services with questions about the Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy and Sexual Violence Policy.
Students who have been affected by sexual violence or harassment can contact Consent Comes First, Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education for support.
Students can contact the Student Conduct Officer with questions about the Student Code of Non-Academic Conduct (Policy 61).
Yes. Students can file complaints with Human Rights Services if the complaints involve a TMU student’s online behaviour that is connected to the university and believed to be discrimination, harassment, and/or sexual violence.
Yes. A TMU community member can file complaints with the Student Conduct Officer if the complaints involve a TMU student’s online behaviour that is connected to the university and involves threats, harassment, and/or violence that is not related to one or more of the protected grounds under the DHPP (see above), or other non-academic misconduct that falls under Policy 61.